Friday, March 29, 2019

The Timely Lawn

Lawn care in Seattle is a matter of trying to control rampant growth, but this is an unusual spring. Ordinarily, the lawn needs mowing once a month from October through the spring lunge, at which time one mows in self-defense as the turf puts out up to three inches a day. Mowing when shaggy during the "off" season generates dense root growth and stems that are green right down to the soil. Leave clippings in place and dare not to fertilize.


February's bitter weather hammered the turf down to the soil. A recent pass with the mower trimmed irregular blades on the parking strip but didn't generate noticeable cuttings. Grass is so responsive to local weather conditions that mowing on a schedule makes little sense. Just give the lawn a pass when it looks uneven. If not irrigated, a lawn will go dormant after mid-June and require little attention until late September -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

April Fool

I would credit the source of this trick if I had noted it. Wrap a brussels sprout in candy foil -30-
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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Put It Where You Want It

Larry Carlton's 1971 "Put It Where You Want It" was the soundtrack of my art school experiments in arranging the meager furnishings of my apartment. I have not found a better rule of thumb than this song. After listening when I checked the date, I can say with certainty hear the band out before you lift even a teaspoon.


Around 1987 I twitted an acquaintance about the way she was managing her elegant contemporary house north of Seattle, saying "What would your mother think?" Janice shot back, "My mother doesn't have my problems!" (four teen-aged sons, four refrigerators) -30-
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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Desk

I stumbled across a how-to site for recreating the legendary slow burn worktop devised by the CEO whose operation has transformed the east-west axis of central Seattle. It's damned good design. I couldn't suppress a giggle when I learned that the very desk is not only standard in the offices of what is now a huge operation, but can be chopped and modified into different formats. The piece is relevant here, because all of the design decisions we have made have been based on the knowledge that the neighborhood is forever in transition. The value of the property is in the land.

It's been my privilege to visit a number of homes owned or rented by people who could, if they wanted to, paper the walls with currency. The simple frugality of their furnishing choices has been inspiring. Long years of casual reading in retail-level interior design books have inspired as well. I stand content with the floor paint that is period for this 1890 structure and with the inexpensive bamboo and Pellon blinds that foster privacy at the windows. Simple paper globes replace the original central ceiling gas fixtures. I am in awe of the original door hardware: a hundred twenty-nine years later, it's still going strong. 


In the mid-Seventies, a local designer noted how much she valued living in a Twenties house that had never been remodeled. That remark influenced my subsequent house hunts. I have not regretted a minute of living in undiluted vintage architecture. Technology changes so fast that keeping up is pointless. Old low-tech design builds in physical amenities that support human-powered labor and ensure resilience in case utilities are disrupted -30-

More after the jump.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Long House

An acquaintance showed me a photo of the spectacular view from his living room...after he commented that the place was uninhabitable because of its energy-inefficient Seventies architecture. He added that it had been designed "by hippies". The comment and the unforgettable view percolated through remembered readings and tours. I realized that the wide open floor to ceiling glazing of the space is the exact but draft-proof equivalent of local tribes' houses. Someone, the owner said, had installed exterior shutters to protect the interior from summer sun. 

Those same shutters can be used to replicate the longhouse daylighting strategy. A traditional structure, composed of the world's first modular lumber, faced in the direction of brightest sunlight. That side of the building had the highest point of the simple slanted roofline. On sunny days, people removed the siding to let in light and air. When shade or shelter were desired, the vertical boards went back in place. The strategy is similar to the traditional Japanese way of managing comfort in a paper house, but the Japanese used solid sliding wooden panels. Shutters are a cannier and more versatile investment than the twenty thousand 1994 dollars an acquaintance spent to curtain her similarly designed international style house.

Creature comfort in a long house was assured by lounging under the low side of the roof near a communal cooking fire. Nineteenth century European-American houses had the inglenook, an enclosed seating area close to the hearth. My recent informant said his family uses a small room on a lower floor as a keeping area.


I find that the biting cold and damp of a Northwest winter is easier to manage if I visit a sauna several times a week. The sauna offers the bone-deep relaxation of alcohol or medical pain relief without the complications. Tribespeople used sweat lodges and coped with the climate by wearing salmon oil, cedar bark skirts, capes, and hats and by getting lots of exercise -30-
More after the jump.